Opponents of a controversial Trump administration move to lower drug prices are ramping up their messaging efforts against the proposal as they brace for its possible release.
Sources told The Hill that the administration is ramping up efforts to release a proposal for an International Price Index in an executive action that would lower certain Medicare drug prices to be more in line with prices in other countries.
It remains unclear when the proposal will be released, but the increase in administration activity on it, combined with the State of the Union next week, has the pharmaceutical industry and conservative groups, which both oppose the move, on guard.
A coalition of 52 conservative organizations wrote a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Thursday urging him not to go forward with the proposal and to withdraw it instead.
The proposal would link prices for certain drugs under Medicare to the lower prices paid in other countries, an idea usually associated with Democrats.
Many Republicans oppose the idea as “price controls” that violate the party’s free-market principles and harm a current system that they say encourages innovation.
“Importing price controls will undermine this system by basing U.S. prices on the prices of socialized foreign healthcare systems,” the letter states. “This will inevitably suppress innovation and harm American competitiveness.”
The letter was signed by the leaders of conservative groups such as Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks and Heritage Action.
“We do not comment on timing during the rulemaking process,” an HHS official said when asked about the release of the proposal.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the main trade group for drug companies, also sent out an email on Thursday warning against the proposal.
“Despite the number of concerns that have already been raised over the past year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is still considering its International Pricing Index (IPI) model, which would drastically change Medicare,” the PhRMA message states. “The Administration continues to ignore all the evidence showing that when governments set the price of medicines, medical innovation slows and patients lose access to lifesaving treatments.”
The email urges supporters to “contact your congressional representatives today and tell Washington to stop the proposed IPI model.”
Even if a proposal is issued soon, it is not clear when it would go into effect. There would still need to be further steps in the rulemaking process, and it is also possible that opponents would sue and seek to block the rule.